Arguing that the Mumbai underworld had lost most of its influence these days, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Wednesday claimed that there was a time when even late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used to visit a don like Karim Lala.
At a function where the Lokmat Group honoured outstanding journalists from Pune, Raut was asked about his days as a crime reporter for a local publication in Mumbai and his experiences of covering the Mumbai underworld. Raut replied that in those days, underworld operators wielded too much influence on Mumbai politics and society.
“(Underworld don) Haji Mastan used to visit Mantralaya and was treated as an honoured guest. Indira Gandhi used to visit Karim Lala. those were the days of the underworld dons. Today Mumbai is not like that,” said Raut. Karim Lala, one of the most notorious names in Mumbai underworld, was known to operate liquor dens, gambling and extortion rackets for close to two decades.
Raut later told The Indian Express that he thought Indira Gandhi used to meet Karim Lala as a leader of the Pathan community to which he belonged.
“I don’t think she (Indira Gandhi) met him because he was an underworld don. Lala was a respected figure in the Pathan community. Therefore, Pathans across the country used to come and meet him. And so did leaders and prominent personalities,” Raut said, claiming even Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had met him. “Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan had stayed at his place,” he claimed.
Raut said he was aware that he was likely to be misinterpreted for his remarks on Indira Gandhi. “I have high regard for Indira Gandhi and that has been reflected in articles in Saamana,” he said.
‘They should provide evidence of being descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji’
Reacting to former Satara MP and BJP leader Udayanraje Bhosale questioning the title of ‘Jaanta Raja’ bestowed on NCP chief Sharad Pawar by his party leaders, Raut said, “Sharad Pawar is indeed the ‘jaanta raja’ who knows Maharashtra inside out, and who contributed immensely towards the state’s progress.”
Udayanraje had also criticised Raut for questioning the perceived silence of Shivaji’s descendants on the book equating PM Modi with Chhatrapati Shivaji. To this, Raut said,”They should provide evidence of being descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji.” He added that he respected the royal families of Kolhapur and Satara and always regarded Chhatrapati Shivaji as God.